What made you think your DC is Oxbridge material?

(69 Posts)
Shimy Thu 15-Oct-20 11:38:00

After reading the Oxbridge 2021 thread, it got me thinking the above. Was it their GCSE results or A’Level predictions or both? Is it their personality/extra Curriculars? or Does one just give it a shot?

I really don’t know what Oxbridge look for but have assumed these places must be for those who are the best of the very best of all the things mentioned above, but now not so sure.

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Pomegranatemolasses Thu 15-Oct-20 11:45:23

Ds decided himself to give it a shot. Very academic with a huge love of learning. He got no encouragement from school (almost the opposite in fact). He’s bright, a little quirky and very independent. We never even saw his personal statement.
I’m not sure if any of that answers your question! He’s in his final year in Cambridge and loves it.

GeorgeMichaelsEspadrille Thu 15-Oct-20 11:53:04

My DS also decided himself (currently at Cambridge). There's a huge amount of admissions information available from both unis to give you an idea of what they are expecting in terms of exam results.

Whether or not you encourage your DC to apply I guess would partly depend on their personality - if it's a long-shot but they are very easy going and it wouldn't bother them if they were rejected, then why not. But if they would be devastated, then perhaps not so much.

For most subjects extra-curricula isn't important, but super-curricula might be.

passthemustard Thu 15-Oct-20 12:02:27

My DD was desperate to go to Cambridge. She didn't get in. I'm not sure if it was the entrance exam or her personal statement that let her down. Maybe they were looking for someone with more extra curricular activities than posting risqué 'pics' on Instagram 🙄. Still at least she knows now she can't rely on her looks for everything. She's in her first semester at Queen Mary's.

kitnkaboodle Thu 15-Oct-20 12:12:18

My personal feeling is that it's more than just being very bright and good at exams. They need to be little bit quirky/nerdy and genuinely passionate about their subject. My DS's teacher asked him to put a line or two on his personal statement about 'hobbies' (which, fyi they advise you NOT to do on an Oxbridge application hmm). He pointed out that all the nerdy subject-relevant stuff that he had filled his time with over lockdown and the summer WERE his hobbies! I think you need to be pursuing your subject in your free time because you love it, not for any more cynical reasons!

Aroundtheworldin80moves Thu 15-Oct-20 12:15:32

Going back about 15years or so...
Self belief. My parents had no input (but were supportive). It was presumed I would get into university.. and a good one (I was on track for 4 A/Bs at A level, pre A* grades, so it was a reasonable belief. Lots got into Oxbridge with my grades).
I didn't get in (medicine). Knocked my confidence a bit, messed up my other med school interview. I didn't get an interview at the other places I applied. Turns out school submitted my application at last minute after having a month, so I was bottom of the list for those, and they never even read my application... Not bitter, honestly!)

I don't regret applying. But it did affect my confidence. I was in the bottom 50% on the entrance exam. Took me a couple of years to accept bottom 50% of Cambridge medical applicants is not exactly stupid... I had to get that far!

So my hindsight is... It's not for the faint hearted, Nd never see not getting in as a failure.

Shimy Thu 15-Oct-20 12:29:02

All interesting comments. I think with the not getting in, it has to be drummed in that most DO NOT get in and encourage them to think about other universities in alongside rather than hyper focus on Oxbridge.

@Pomegranatemolasses That does answer my question a bit. The bright, quirky, independent type. Though, lots of those don’t get in

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AlexaShutUp Thu 15-Oct-20 12:32:22

My dd is only year 11, but has already decided that she wants to apply for Cambridge. There are never any guarantees, of course, but I think she has as good a chance as anyone tbh. She is extremely bright (definitely cleverer than I am and I went to Cambridge, so that's my benchmark!) and also very hard-working, predicted all 9s at GCSE etc.

She also does loads of extra-curricular stuff, but I don't think Oxbridge cares about that at all. They're much more interested in people who show a genuine interest in and commitment to their subject. I guess the only thing that the extracurricular stuff might help to demonstrate is that she has lots of energy and great time management skills. I do think that Oxbridge tend to like people with the kind of zest for life and love of learning that my dd exhibits. I guess we'll see what happens.

Years ago, I asked my tutor at Cambridge how they choose between so many applicants with similar grades. He said that, above all, he looked for "intellectual honesty" as he felt that this was what would enable students to benefit from the Cambridge style of teaching.

I also think there is a significant degree of luck involved. grin

If your dc likes the look of it, then encourage them to try. As long as they don't get too invested in the outcome, they have nothing to lose. Too many people self-select out of applying because they don't think they're good enough, but that isn't necessarily the case.

Aweebawbee Thu 15-Oct-20 12:41:30

I honestly didn't think mine was, but didn't want to question her choices too much. She got in. Obviously a lot cleverer than me.

DilysPrice Thu 15-Oct-20 12:52:12

DD hasn’t really thought “am I good enough?”. It’s the best for the course she wants to do (in so far as “the best” has an objective value) and she’s on target to get their standard offer - it’s only one out of five places on her UCAS form so why the hell wouldn’t she give it a pop? I’m trying to make her aware that it’s a very aspirational pick, and my personal (internal, unexpressed) hopes aren’t high, but if the dice roll her way it’s perfectly possible that she’ll ace the exam and the interview. Stranger things have happened.

Definitelyrandom Thu 15-Oct-20 13:04:34

Probably the first questions to ask are (1) Is Oxford or Cambridge the best place for the course your DC wants to do? (2) Would the short terms and tutorial system work for them? Then think about whether the interview and selection process would be a distraction/could they deal with it?

DS1 didn't particularly want the faff in Y13 and at masters and PhD level neither had the right course or supervisor, as far as he was concerned. He did end up doing some online tutoring with 3rd year Oxford students in the gap year between masters and PhD and got the impression that both the quality of the teaching and the experience wasn't all it was cracked up to be - but that's just one subject, obviously.

DS2 was asked to be part of the Oxbridge Group at his comp, but the courses were not particularly on point for what he wanted and he thought the process would be a distraction from both his A levels and his high level sport. His top two universities were world leaders in the subject he wanted, he got offers from both, with Oxbridge level grade requirements, and has been very happy at one of them.

So from my perspective, I'd say first look beyond the "Ooh, Oxbridge!" exciting image and ask if the fit is right. Beyond that, GSCE results and A Level predictions will be a good starting point.

goodbyestranger Thu 15-Oct-20 13:36:01

My DC seemed clever and got good grades.

hey managed to get offers without being in the least bit nerdy or quirky and were interested enough in their subject but short of passionate. They were far more engaged with their subject after they'd been to Oxford than they were before, which is what you'd expect.

goodbyestranger Thu 15-Oct-20 13:36:47

*They not hey

GrasswillbeGreener Thu 15-Oct-20 13:37:17

We're academically inclined ourselves and our children have always been able, both on academic scholarships at senior school. Post GCSEs I encouraged my daughter to go to the Oxford open days (we're local enough to make that easy), and she came back buzzing and reinvigorated after the slog of GCSE revision. She basically said "now I understand why everyone [eg at school] assumes I'll want to go to Oxford or Cambridge". She'd started getting annoyed by those assumptions before that, and even questioned whether she would go to university at all ... Found out 6 months ago that she was one of only 2 in her year group to get all 9s at GCSE.

I guess I'd "hoped" since they were quite small that they might be capable of Oxford or Cambridge in due course, and then never seen anything to suggest otherwise. Joy of learning, breadth of interests, all seem reasonable. They're work hard play hard types too.

Ironoaks Thu 15-Oct-20 13:49:39

He went to an open day at the college and loved it. The course is ideal for him and is the only one in the UK which offers those opportunities.

His GCSE grades were high and it was apparent by the middle of Y12 that his A-level predicted grades were likely to be high.

He did well in a subject competition and was invited to a summer school where he was taught some introductory content in the university's teaching style, including some time in their labs. This confirmed for him that he wanted to apply there.

He applied with a realistic understanding of his chances of getting an offer (approx. 1 in 4).

Ironoaks Thu 15-Oct-20 14:02:08

Having now had some supervisions, DS says that the interviews were in a similar style.

In my opinion, the admissions tutors aren't looking for applicants who are exceptionally knowledgeable, but for those with good thinking skills and the ability to work something out for themselves when pointed in the right direction.

Johnathonripples Thu 15-Oct-20 14:14:21

Nothing .. Because it didn’t occur to me-It was dc who wants it and who said “well why NOT me?!!” when I expressed surprise at the desire to try for it.

FlyingSquid Thu 15-Oct-20 14:19:08

I'm not sure I do think she is. I'm ex-Oxbridge myself and found it tough going.

But two of her cousins applied (and didn't get in), and like some others upthread, she went on an open day and was smitten with a particular department, so she's having a go.

RainingBatsAndFrogs Thu 15-Oct-20 14:22:44

His school (a comp) assumed he would be applying, based on ability and grades.

We / he went to the open days and absolutely hated it. Got his top choice of a highly regarded RG and loving it.

Bingbongbinglybong Thu 15-Oct-20 14:28:27

I think the point about being quirky or nerdy is that they look for students capable of independent, original thought. Often being quirky or nerdy means you don't just follow the pack, you will step outside the box and try something new, think something new, achieve something new.

Evidence of being a high achiever and diving deeply into an activity is helpful which is why extra curricular activities could be important.

I genuinely think they are looking for a spark. With tutorials and small classes you want people with lively minds, lots of ideas, people who can cope with a large volume of work on their own and then turn up and go a step further and bring something of their own to the party (not just synthesise what other people have written). Not everyone is going to become an academic, but if the student shows promise for becoming a researcher then that will appeal (passion, intelligence, an avid reader, an enquiring mind, a willingness to tackle something incredibly difficult and step up to a massive challenge).

AlexaShutUp Thu 15-Oct-20 14:33:51

I think they look for people who are intellectually curious and able to think for themselves, yes. And those who are honest enough to admit when they don't know something.

It's definitely true that Oxbridge won't suit everyone, so people should do their research carefully.

sm40 Thu 15-Oct-20 14:53:11

I pushed myself. This was 25 years ago though!
My parents just wanted me to go to uni.
My school
We're sort of supportive but kept telling me my 2 bs at gcse would hold me back!
I got in because I was motivated
And geeked up on my subject. I didn't do much outside of school though.
However do be prepared for failure. Not everyone gets in and sometime the obvious people don't.
Also be prepared if you are the cleverest in your school you probably won't be when you get there. Lots of people struggle as they are no longer on a pedestal of teachers/parents. A few people left because if this!

GreyBow Thu 15-Oct-20 14:57:48

DD decided but she haven't discouraged her because she both thrives with a tutorial system, she's mentally robust enough to cope with the pressure plus and most importantly, she has a passion for the subject.

I think it will be a long shot but someone has to get in 🤷🏻‍♀️ Why not her?

If she doesn't get in, I imagine she'll just shrug and accept it. If she then gets all A*s though I'd encourage she considers a post results application, but it really depends on how other applications go. This is a WEIRD year for these year 13s. Nothing is normal about this.

Guymere Thu 15-Oct-20 15:01:14

DD was interested in Oxford after she got very good gcse results. She wasn’t encouraged by her school despite getting a 6th form academic scholarship. I think they thought she was a bit too noisy and self opinionated! Others who were mentored had more compliant personalities. We went to open days and worked everything out for ourselves. School did virtually nothing but they arranged a mock interview which was so wide of the mark it was laughable! DD didn’t know whether to laugh or cry during it apparently.

DD didn’t do much extra for her subject and I never saw her PS. She got an interview. She felt others at the interview had greater knowledge but I think the interviewers look for people who suit the tutorial system and can think for themselves. It’s how people learn and whether they grasp ideas or not and they must also give reasons for why they think something. So it’s intellect as well as learnt knowledge. DD got in. School was very surprised.

Added to this: DC must ace the entrance tests prior to interview and submit really good work if this is required. Good results in exams are the standard requirement but you won’t get a place purely on predicted grades. Also some subjects are way less competitive than others. So choose subject wisely!

Shimy Thu 15-Oct-20 16:04:23

Being mentally robust enough to cope with the pressure is a very good point.

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